Network affiliates win in EchoStar dispute

EchoStar, operator of the DISH direct-to-home satellite service, has lost a federal court appeal over the legality of its retransmission of network television signals. The court ordered that EchoStar stop retransmitting network signals to ineligible subscribers.

The ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta stems from a dispute in 1998 between EchoStar and a group of network TV affiliate stations. The stations claimed that EchoStar violated a 1988 law governing how satellite TV providers can retransmit network signals, the Associated Press reported.

The law allows satellite carriers to transmit copyrighted distant network programming to households unable to receive network programming through the use of conventional rooftop antennas, the AP said. However, those carriers aren't allowed to provide such programming to customers that can receive the signal from their local stations.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled last week that EchoStar transmitted programming from distant local stations to customers who were not eligible to receive it. The court also said the company failed to make good on promises to stop the practice.

The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court and ordered it to issue a nationwide injunction against EchoStar.

EchoStar told the AP that-in response to the ruling it will try to satisfy the demands of the stations without harming consumers.